We have finally reached the point of the baseball season where things start to clear up a little bit…we are at the All-Star break!
And the first question you have to ask is, “Well who won the first half of the season?”
This is an easy question answer…the baseball fans across the world won the first half of the season.
Why? Hell, Why not??? We’ve seen a no-hitter, we’ve seen the cycle hit for a few times and we’ve even seen the league combine for the second-most home runs hit in 1 day.
Baseball is back! The long ball is back!
And somehow, the biracial angel Derek Jeter was replaced with another biracial angel by the name of Aaron Judge (also a NY Yankee) who is tearing the cover off the ball and currently lead the league in home runs with THIRTY in his rookie season. Oh, and he just won the Home Run Derby and he actually hit a ball so high that it hit the ROOF at Marlins stadium. That’s not a typo; he really hit the ROOF along with a few 500+ foot home runs as well.
Speaking of All-star events, the actual All-Star game was won, again, by the American League. Robinson Cano hit a game winning HR in the top of the 10th off Wade Davis to give the AL the lead and Andrew Miller came in and shut the door in a game that didn’t feature much offense. Pitching dominated the night as the best of the best showed their stuff. But enough about that, let’s talk about state of the league right now at the midway point.
So let’s play the, “If the season ended today…”, game. Looking at the American League, The Red Sox win the East, Cleveland wins the Central and Houston wins the West. We’d also have a 3 way tie for the final Wild Card spot between Tampa Bay, Kansas City and the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees would own the first wild card spot.
Now is it safe to say that these are pretty much the only contenders in the American League? For the most part…Yes.
Houston has the West wrapped up with a 15.5 game lead over their nearest opponent in the Angels. The Angels, Rangers, Mariners and Oakland don’t have a chance in hell of catching the Astros. The Astros are the team to beat this year and they are loaded with young talent that are all peaking at the right time. Barring a major injury, it’s has to be World Series or bust for them.
Cleveland, Minnesota and Kansas City will be battling it out till the end to see who will win the Central. Cleveland is up right now, and last year’s World Series runners-up are charging up for another run. Manager Terry Francona will be back and they are playing good ball but Miguel Sano and the Twins are not going to make it easy. When was the last time you remember the Twins being in a pennant race? It’s been a while, but once again, the big winners are the Twins Fans! Kansas City is lurking so don’t sleep on them. They might not be the same team from 2 years ago, but they have experience and will make a run before the season ends.
The tightest race will be in the AL East, simply because each team has a shot, even the last place Blue Jays. A nine-game lead can evaporate fast given the right circumstances and the East could be that perfect storm. The Red Sox are in 1st right now but only by a couple games over the Yankees and Rays, but the Rays is the team to worry about. They are hitting better than any other team right now. The Orioles will eventually get it together and get themselves back in the mix somehow if they can get their pitching together. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and the rest of the crew will carry the Yankees to the postseason a few years earlier than expected as either a wild card or division winner.
The National League is just as complex as the American League. There are about 5 teams fighting for the 2 Wild Card spots. Right now the Milwaukee Brewers are on top of the Central division. Yes, you read that right. The Milwaukee Brewers are up to in front of last year’s World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs. Will they stay there? Probably not, I fully expect the Cubs to get it together. They have been awful for most of the season, and the fact that they are still only 5.5 back from the Brewers is positive. The bad news, the Cubs just traded for an ace in Jose Quintana, which bolsters their already potent starting pitching. So Milwaukee, watch out, the Cubs are coming. St.Louis and Pittsburgh are also lurking at 5.5 and 7 games back; don’t expect them to go quietly.
The NL West could possibly get three teams into the playoffs. Seriously…THREE TEAMS. The Dodgers have found a gem in rookie Cody Bellinger and their pitching is the best in the National League; and with a 7.5 game lead over the Diamondbacks, they are poised to make a run at the playoffs and win the NL West again. The Rockies and Diamondbacks both feature great hitting lineups with well-known names. They will need those names to help them finish up the season to possibly make the wild card. But with so many games left against each other, one could easily knock out the other and possibly leave a Wild Card spot open for a Central team.
The NL East is Trash. Yes…I said it. IT IS TRASH. If the Nationals had a competent bullpen, they would be up 20 games instead of 9.5. I am not even going to talk about the Marlins, Mets, or Braves. No Point. The Nationals have the best offense in the Nationals league. They have the top three player individual batting averages in the National League (Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper) with Anthony Rendon not lagging too far behind. You have three starters who have been pitching probably their individual best ball of their careers in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and surprisingly, Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez could have been in the All-Star game as well if the bullpen wasn’t so damn bad. His 2.86 ERA is the third best in the National League! He just couldn’t catch a break, if it wasn’t enough runs then it wasn’t enough help out the bullpen. So when you look at it, the Nationals could have had 7-8 guys in the All-Star game. I fully expect the Nationals to win the East and make the playoffs again, and will probably face the winner of the Central Division. They split a four-game set with the Cubs already, but if they want to win in the playoffs, the bullpen needs to either step up or they need to make some roster moves to get some bullpen help. Having great starters is fine and dandy, but they are worthless if your pen gives up the game when they step off the mound.
The pennant race is heating up and the season starts back up tomorrow. Will the Cubs trade pay off? Will the young Yankees keep up the pace? Can the Dodgers run away with the west? Will the Nationals bullpen get any better? Is there anyone hotter than Houston? Will Trout be traded? OK, let me stop…Trout isn’t going anywhere. But if he did, he’d look really good in Dodger blue or Nationals red! One can dream! Enjoy the second half folks!